Several years ago, at The Airline Symposium, I asked Peggy Gilligan, FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, who was on one of our panels, “Why do the FAA and NTSB hate one another?”
After the laughter in the room died down, Peggy said, quite correctly, that the premise of my question wasn’t accurate. She said something to the effect (and I’m not quoting her) that the FAA was the regulator and the NTSB was the investigator, with no regulatory authority and because the results of NTSB aviation investigations typically resulted in recommendations to the FAA, with which the FAA doesn’t always agree, there was a certain amount of tension between FAA and NTSB . An excellent answer. By way of footnote, it didn’t prevent me from asking Peggy, the following year at the Symposium, whether the NTSB and FAA still hated one another?
Well, here we are in 2016 and the US airline industry has been, and continues to be, at an unprecedented level of safety and a model for the rest of the world. The last US airline accident was in 2009, when Continental/Colgan Flight 3407 crashed in Buffalo, NY. This level of safety is no accident (excuse the pun). It’s a function of industry and government, i.e. FAA and NTSB, working together.
The airline industry is so safe that Chris Hart, the Chairman of the NTSB and someone who, in the opinion of Plane-ly Spoken, is, by far, the most qualified and effective Chairman in the history of the NTSB, has broadened the focus of the NTSB to include a more pro-active, advocacy role, namely, spotting air-safety hazards before they result in an accident. In doing so, Chairman Hart cited the increasingly growing levels of cooperation and sharing of information between the FAA and NTSB.
Make no mistake about it however, the FAA and NTSB won’t always see eye to eye in the future. But that’s okay, so long as future disagreements continue to be the exception and not the rule.
We have the safest aviation industry in the world. So long as industry and government continue to work together, the biggest winners will be the traveling public.
Thank you Associate Administrator Gilligan! Thank you Chairman Hart!
P.S. Maybe at The 2017 Airline Symposium, February 7-9, 2017, I’ll ask one of them “Why do the FAA and NTSB love another?”